“Excuse me, does anyone need some tea? If not, I’ll head off first.”
Editor(s): Amelea, juurensha
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In Gongcao’s file room.
“Ah!” Chen Xing cheered, “I’ve finally found it!”
Chen Xing laid out a map of a building in the ancient city of Chang’an three hundred years ago, then asked Tuoba Yan, “Where is this?”
Tuoba Yan was in charge of the defense both inside and outside the city, so he could identify it straight away. He said, “West of the city, Songbai Residence. I’ll take you there tomorrow.”
Chen Xing wanted to go over to take a look now before the sun set, but he remembered that Tuoba Yan had already accompanied him for an entire afternoon, and those on duty in the palace may not be allowed to leave without authorisation. He was about to thank Tuoba Yan and head over there by himself when Tuoba Yan insisted on sending him back to the palace, otherwise it would be difficult for him to account for matters.
Chen Xing couldn’t make him change his mind, so he could only bid farewell to Tuoba Yan outside the imperial garden. Chen Xing did not want to return to the sleeping chambers and see Xiang Shu’s face at all, but since there was some progress with his investigation, he thought that he should let Xiang Shu know about it, so he decided to go back and have dinner there as well.
At that moment, Xiang Shu was listening to Princess Qinghe introduce her cousin to him with a numb look on his face. Qinghe and Murong Chong’s paternal aunt had married into the Tuoba tribe, and although she was the official wife, she had no children. Her husband had a son with a concubine afterwards, who was Tuoba Yan. Tuoba Yan was never doted on when he was little, and no one in his family really paid particular attention to him. Only his grandmother loved him dearly. After his grandmother passed away, Tuoba Yan grew to be 14 years old and joined the imperial army. He was a good sapling for practicing martial arts and could wield the halberd well, so he stood out in the martial selection. His appearance was as beautiful as a jade as well, so he obtained the favour of Fu Jian, who recruited him to be by his side.
Two years later, Murong Chong left the capital to take office. Fu Jian was truly lonely, so he more or less shifted some of his affection onto Tuoba Yan. But Tuoba Yan wasn’t Murong Chong, and their temperaments were far too different as well. Fu Jian thought about it over and over, but never asked for him in the end, and instead doted on him very much. He regarded Tuoba Yan as a younger brother and nurtured him as such, intending to look for a prospective marriage partner for him. It’s just that, after looking everywhere, no one seemed appropriate.
Princess Qinghe had specifically asked him about it before, but Tuoba Yan himself couldn’t specify what kind of partner he wanted. He did have a certain goal though-- he liked Han people the most.
And then last night, Tuoba Yan first met Chen Xing in Yuwen Xin’s residence and heard Yuwen Xin mention the past—— although the Chen family was already ruined, Chen Zhe still had a rather high prestige among scholars and officials. About half of the Qin court’s three departments were students taught by Chen Xing’s father. Since the families were well-matched in terms of social status, and Tuoba Yan had fallen in love at first sight, Princess Qinghe quickly rushed over to inquire about him.
Xiang Shu didn’t expect Chen Xing to have such a family background, and his usual expression of an ancient well with no waves actually now had some ripples and oscillations; it was as if he had just gotten to know Chen Xing once more. Meanwhile, Yuwen Xin, who was still outside the palace, kept nodding his head and echoing whatever Princess Qinghe said with continuous “yes, yes, yes”, and even went into the palace, pacing left and right over and over, which made Xiang Shu extremely agitated. He just wanted to find a flying knife and nail him onto a pillar like he was nailing a fly.
Suddenly, silence fell within the palace at the same time -- Chen Xing had come in.
“Ai?” Chen Xing took a look with a baffled expression, and Yuwen Xin was immediately all smiles as he greeted him, “Tianchi!”
“Hello Xin Ge!” Chen Xing avoided Yuwen Xin’s hug and nodded at Princess Qinghe.
Princess Qinghe smiled, “Went out with Tuoba Yan?”
Chen Xing was filled with doubts, how did you know?
Princess Qinghe said, “Come, Jiejie will pour a cup of tea for you.” As she spoke, she went to pick up a pot and said, “I have something good to talk to you about later……”
Yet Chen Xing said, “No need, there are already ready-made ones, I’m dying of thirst!” Then he picked up a cup of tea on the table and drank it. Cup after cup, he polished off all the cups of tea that the Chang’an nobles had poured for their marriage proposals.
“Yi?” Chen Xing continued, “And what’s this?” He picked up a portrait from the table and studied it, yet Xiang Shu pressed it down with one hand as he said angrily, “Stop touching things!”
“What’s wrong with taking a look?” Chen Xing grabbed the folded paper. Xiang Shu tugged at it, and because of his strong inner force, the portrait was torn into two on the spot; so Chen Xing had to casually throw the paper back, which smacked onto Xiang Shu’s body.
Xiang Shu, “You……”
Chen Xing finished drinking the tea and said, “There’s a lead, I still have to get busy. Give me some money.” He was thinking that he wanted to go to the Songbai residence to take a look since it wasn’t dark yet.
Princess Qinghe got up and said, “I’ll ask Yan’er to accompany you. It just so happens that I wanted to ask him to be off night duty tonight.”
Chen Xing quickly said, “No need, no need.” When they said their goodbyes in the imperial garden, he had heard that Tuoba Yan needed to guard a banquet for Fu Jian tonight, so he stretched a hand out towards Xiang Shu.
“I don’t have any.” Xiang Shu said coldly.
Chen Xing thought, do you think I can’t walk? He didn’t beg him and just left in anger.
Chen Xing didn’t leave for long before Princess Qinghe wondered, “Great Chanyu, where did we leave off just now?”
At this moment, a palace attendant came, evidently someone who had been dispatched by the wave of people in the afternoon to inquire about some news. He peeped into the palace to sneak a look, and once he saw that all the milk tea from every family’s silver, gold, and enamel cups were all drunk while the hall was littered with waste paper torn in half, he was instantly overjoyed and broke into a run.
It took a long time before Princess Qinghe and Xiang Shu snapped out of their stupor. They shouted together, “Come back!”
Xiang Shu quickly got up to give chase, but that palace attendant had long since ran out of sight. So that night, all families knew that the Great Chanyu drank all the milk tea they had poured after they left, while all the portraits were torn in half. And what did that mean? Shouldn’t everyone quickly make preparations to send all their youngest sons to the Great Chanyu?
Chen Xing left the palace and studied the map. It was almost dusk. When he passed by the doors of several houses, he heard several families setting off firecrackers. He didn’t know what was happening and thought that they were in the midst of celebrating a festival. Weiyang Palace was close to the west side of the city. But even so, he still took close to two hours before arriving outside the Songbai residence. It was dark now, and one could hear the beats of the evening drum ring out one after another.
The west side of the city was a highland with pine and cypress trees planted everywhere. A row of massive buildings were half concealed within the pine forest, and the unbridled laughter of men travelled out from the inside. Chen Xing remembered now: when they parted ways with Feng Qianjun, he had told them that he would be staying here.
Chen Xing circled around outside past about half the residence and still couldn’t find the entrance. All he saw was a gate that was shut tight, and two large golden letters glimmered on the gate: “Xifeng Bank”.
Chen Xing, “?”
“Is anyone there?” Chen Xing shouted. He compared the place with the map in his hands and was certain that this was the place. After circling for another round, he arrived outside a dense forest. He saw two stones there, and two more stones at the side; the words “Evergreen Pines and Cypresses” were written on the left, while “Senluo Wanxiang” were written on the right.
Chen Xing walked into the forest along the road and made several turns along the winding path. He suddenly felt like something was amiss; the trees and rockery inside were arranged according to the eight gates -- “Kai, Xiu, Sheng, Shang, Du, Jing, Si, Jin” set up by Kong Ming of the Three Kingdoms. After Chen Xing was formally recognised as his master’s student, his first lesson was on how to break through this eight gates array, so it wouldn’t be a problem for him at all. He just hesitated in that since this array was set up, the place inside shouldn’t be someplace opened to public. Would it be too rude to just charge right in?
However, just as he was about to turn around, he could no longer go back through the path he had taken through the outer eight gates. The only way to pass through was to walk all the way to the end, then leave from the northeast’s Mountain Sheng gate, so Chen Xing could only force himself to walk in. After walking round and round, he suddenly realised that this Eight Trigrams array would change in various ways. After turning around a rockery, a huge residence suddenly appeared in front of him. Bright lights were lit up inside, and 20 over pairs of martial boots were placed under the corridor. Chen Xing shouted from the outside, “Is anyone there?”
He didn’t hear an answer, so Chen Xing took off his boots and stepped up. He pulled the sliding door and he heard a ruckus.
“Overthrow Fu Jian! Restore the Great……”
The room was full of people sitting on the floor, and the crowd’s emotions were running high. The residence had excellent soundproofing, so one wouldn’t be able to hear the noises that were made inside from the outside at all. From the looks of it, they were obviously in the middle of a conspiracy meeting.
Chen Xing, “Excuse me, does anyone need some tea? If not, I’ll head off first.”
Chen Xing closed the door decisively, and a group of people immediately rushed out from the inside. All of them brandished their knives and swords, drawing their weapons out as they placed them against Chen Xing’s neck. Chen Xing had no strength to resist and could only raise both his hands up and say, “I really didn’t hear anything!”
“Tianchi?” Feng Qianjun’s surprised voice rang out, “How did you get in? Stop! He’s one of us!”
Chen Xing entered the room with knives against his neck. A wide couch stood deep in the center, on which sat a man in his twenties dressed in a loose robe with large sleeves. Feng Qianjun sat beside the man and drank as he faced a short table.
“Stop.” That man said, “Invite that little brother in.” He then glanced at Feng Qianjun. Feng Qianjun nodded slightly to signal, ‘it’s okay’, then waved his hand to motion for Chen Xing to come over. The group of martial artists detaining Chen Xing released him and let him go to Feng Qianjun.
“There’s not much time, “ the man said, “There is a guest present, but it’s okay for him to hear it. Let’s continue talking; Xiangyang’s catastrophe this time was not caused by a momentary mistake……”
Chen Xing glanced at Feng Qianjun and saw that he now seemed completely different from the Feng Qianjun whom he had travelled with. He had changed into a loose robe embroidered with patterns of leaves and blossoming flowers, and his huanshou knife was placed on the central table in front of the man. Even a Xianbei as beautiful as a woman would appear bewitching adorned in that kind of flowery martial robe, but on Feng Qianjun, it didn’t seem out of place at all, and was strangely fitting. It naturally gave him an air that was magnificent to the extreme.
Chen Xing looked at the man in the center, then at Feng Qianjun. Feng Qianjun whispered into Chen Xing’s ear, “He’s my older brother, Feng Qianyi. A kid like you actually managed to break through the Eight Trigrams array he set up outside? I really underestimated you.”
Chen Xing, “I……I was just walking around at random, what are you all doing?”
Feng Qianjun, “Plotting a rebellion ah. It’s so obvious, can’t you tell?”
Chen Xing said sincerely, “I could. Which stage have you guys progressed to?”
Feng Qianjun, “There has never been any progress, it’s so distressing na. I don’t even want to continue playing with them anymore.”
Zryuu: MAAAAAN ALL THESE T/Ns. For those of you wondering why Sen Luo Wan Xiang is in pinyin, it’s cause there’s a play later on that won’t work with its English equivalent… //dies
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.